I learned that my fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Groseclose passed away (I am writing this on October 26th, 2018). I can’t describe how much she meant to me. There are not enough words. She was a fantastic teacher!
Maya Angelou said it best when she said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Mrs. G always made me feel important. Whether I was standing in line when she said, “good morning Chris” , when I went up to her desk to ask for help, or when she put another sticker on my folder, I felt important. When she said, “Good Job, Chris,” it meant the world to me. She was kind, smart, firm, funny and creative. Most of all, she made us feel important because to her we were.
I don’t remember who the girl was, but she told me the smart kids go into Mrs. Groseclose’s class and the troublemakers go into Mrs. D’s class. I thought there must be a mistake. I am in Mrs. Grosecloses’s class. I am not a smart kid. I looked around the room, and there was Tara Clark, Kim Trebino, Welling Tom, Kjersti Sudweeks, and Nathan Gursky, confirmation I was in with the smart kids. Someone made a mistake, but I was not going to say anything.
I have told this part of the story a hundred times: I was not a good reader, and I struggled in school. Reading was not fun to me: it just did not make sense. I loved books and I loved stories, but I did not like to read. I walked into her room about a year below grade level in reading. Mrs. Groseclose spurred on my reading. She sent me home with books on tape and books at my level. I even snuck out a few books from her classroom library. I was embarrassed about my reading level and did not want my friends to know. Mrs. G understood and continued to praise me and encourage me. She made me feel like I could do it, and because of that, I did. Mrs. Groseclose loved books she read to us all the time, Super Fudge, Bunnicula, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Hobbit. Is there a book that when you read it, it reminds you of someone? For me, it’s The Hobbit, and the person is Wanda Groseclose. No surprise. I fell in love with reading that year. It transformed my life. I walked out of her classroom two years above grade level in reading.
Mrs. G took us on the most amazing field trips; she was constantly exposing us to a world larger than little Brentwood California. The Lawrence Livermore Lab! Who takes 5th graders to the lab to talk about lasers, fusion, and fission energy with a nuclear physicist? Mrs. Groseclose did. She also took us to see “The Nutcracker” in San Francisco which was not my favorite field trip, but it gave a group of kids from Brentwood an experience with the dramatic arts. At the end of the year, the most memorable field trip was the trip to her house. Imagine 30 to 35 students with parent chaperones going to a teacher’s house! It was so symbolic of her; she opened her doors to us and her heart. Mrs. G used money to motivate us, and it worked. Fake money of course. We were given a checkbook earlier in the year, taught how to write a check, and how to reconcile a checkbook. Math lessons all revolved around this concept. What 5th grader doesn’t like money? I was listening. At the end-of-the-year party, we wrote out checks to go swimming, to play games, to buy food, candy, books or toys. We were encouraged to buy things for one another. I vividly remember both buying stuff for others and classmates purchasing things for me, mainly I remember writing the checks. The house inside and out was buzzing with laughter and conversation. It was awesome.
At her memorial service I reminisced, I cried, I laughed, but mostly I smiled. I learned she nearly died several times in her life. What would life be like without her? I don’t want to think about it. Afterward, several former students expressed how she always made them feel important. Her sons teased, about which one of them was her favorite. I knew I was her favorite student. (I am sure many felt that way). I was important to her, and she was critical to my education. I was so blessed to be in her classroom, it was when I started my journey to be a smart kid. I learned that belief in someone, words of encouragement, and persistent high expectations can change a life. I hope to continue her legacy and treat others like she did. I challenge you to do the same for the children in your life. Remember, it is how you made them feel that will last.
With something to think about ….. your friend, Chris